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Intensive care capacity in Denmark

Since most admissions to intensive care are acute, patient flow in the ICU can hardly be controlled. Furthermore, ICU beds are costly. Consequently, a shortage of ICU beds is a common occurrence. However, there is a lack of precise figures describing the magnitude of this problem. We therefore conducted a survey to investigate the available ICU resources in Denmark. The survey consisted of two parts. The first part was a questionnaire sent to the directors of all ICUs in Denmark. This questionnaire described the staffing and resources of the ICUs and the perceived magnitude of the 'ICU full' problem. In the second part, bed availability and occupancy in all Danish ICUs was measured twice daily in two separate weeks. Furthermore all transfer of patients due to lack of resources (beds) was recorded.

The total number of ICU beds was 386 during workdays and 354 during weekends, corresponding to 2.1% and 2.0% of the total number of hospital beds in Denmark. As Denmark has a population of around 5,500,000, this is about 7 (6.4) ICU beds/100,000 inhabitants. With 49 ICUs in Denmark there were 1386 measuring points in the second part of the investigation. In 418 instances (30%) the ICUs were reported to be full, and during these 2 weeks there was a total of 32 patients who were transferred to other ICUs because of bed shortage, corresponding to 834 transferrals per year.

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Joensen, H., Lippert, A., Espersen, K. et al. Intensive care capacity in Denmark. Crit Care 10 (Suppl 1), P430 (2006).

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